HC Deb 31 October 1930 vol 244 cc397-434

I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add the words: But humbly regret that the Speech from the Throne contains no proposals making for Socialist reorganisation of industry, agriculture, banking, and the import and export trades, and for the fairer distribution of the national income. Every hon. Member will feel that, having regard to the fact that the trade disputes question is to come up later in the shape of a legislative proposal, the discussion of the subject to-day has been exhaustive enough, and that it is time for a change. In the belief of those of us who are associated with the Amendment the position of the country to-day is not in any way met by the proposals foreshadowed in the King's Speech. There are no fewer than 2,250,000 unemployed persons in this country. I can recall the time when the million figure was reached and the situation was considered to be very serious. The situation to-day resembles that in the latter part of the eighteenth and the early part of the nineteenth century. A great industrial revolution is taking place similar in character to that which took place in the period mentioned. In those circumstances, it appears to be essential that the House should consider measures of far-reaching importance specially designed not only to deal with the industrial situation in the remote future and to deal with unemployment in the immediate present, but during the transition to another industrial and social order to do away with the hardships and relieve the miseries of the people.

I repeat, that we do not feel that the Measures which are foreshadowed in the King's Speech are calculated to meet the situation. The leading feature in the King's Speech, if I read it aright, is the affirmation of intention of the Government to go forward with the rationalisation of industry. I am not going to argue that the rationalisation of industry can he prevented or ought to be prevented. When there are new methods of organisation, and new scientific appliances which can be employed in the production of the necessaries and the luxuries of life, those new methods and appliances, of course, will inevitably be brought into play. But I most respectfully submit to the Government that it is not the special business of a Labour Government to carry through rationalisation under capitalism, except on such terms and within such lines as make it perfectly certain that, whatever assistance may be given in one shape or another to capitalist concerns and to branches of industry, shall be of a nature which will, in the words of the Amendment, "make for Socialist reorganisation of industry"

The inevitable result of rationalisation in any event must be saving of labour. If rationalisation were taking place under the social order in which we believe, the problem of course would be easy because all we would need to do would be to share out the work and give more leisure and a better standard of living hi order that everybody might share the advantage. But if, under capitalism, capitalists carry out this reorganisation which we have called rationalisation, they are under no obligation to do any such thing. The reorganisation which they carry out is for the cheapening of production, for the saving of labour costs, and, in many instances, for securing the control of the market in order to get the utmost possible price for their goods. No consideration for the workers enters into that reorganisation, and what we are now facing is the most pathetic spectacle that any hon. Member could possibly contemplate. Men and women who have worked in the same establishment, in skilled employment, for 20 and 30, aye and 40 years, are thrown on the unemployment scrap heap with no hope or expectation of ever being employed again at the only craft or job they have ever worked at in their lives. We have a right to expect the Labour Government, in so far as it assists industry under capitalism to reorganise itself, in so far as it assists what is now described as rationalisation, to do so not only on plans that will ultimately help towards the Socialist State, but on plans that will give the nation a share in return for whatever is invested and whatever costs there may be. One would expect after the years of consideration given to the programme for the last Election that such proposals as the control and direction of raw materials might have formed part of the Government's policy.

We are not asking in this Amendment as the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) seemed to indicate that a minority Government should propose measures of full-blooded Socialism. We are asking, and we have a right to expect, that those proposals which took such a prominent place in the election controversies should be put forward here in the House of Commons. If the Government created the necessary machinery for doing so, these proposals might be put forward in circumstances which would enable Members of every party to contribute to the discussion of them, to make their own propositions for what they are worth, and to have those propositions considered. I believe in the sharing of responsibility which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) advocated in his speech. I think it would be a good thing but if it should be that what he meant was merely consultations behind the Speaker's Chair, then those consultations may be called Councils of State or by any other fancy or imaginative name, but they are not consultations in which the rank and file of all parties can put in their suggestions as they should be able to do.

My point is that irrespective of whether a majority could be got in the House of Commons or not, proposals advocated at the Election such as the proposal for the control of finance and banking, and others should have been placed before the House for consideration. In my opinion and in my judgment those proposals ought to have been placed before the House in order to seek approval for them, if possible. I feel that it is almost unnecessary to say—but for the purpose of making my case clear I must do so—that the rationalisation that is now- in progress inevitably means more unemployment, and more unemployment means in its turn greater difficulty in keeping up wage standards. We have had tragic proof of that fact within the last few years. The miners carried through for seven months a tragic struggle to maintain the very inadequate and miserable standard of life which they had previously secured, and if there is a section of industrial workers in this country who are entitled to good wages, short hours, and good conditions, it is the miners. We, on these benches, owe a very great debt of gratitude to the miners for their political consciousness, for their industrial solidarity, for their courage in carrying through industrial conflicts, but with all their power, with all their loyalty to each other, they were beaten. However readily young men in plus fours will mount tramway platforms and punch tramway tickets, young men in plus fours "don't go down the mine, daddy."

2.0 p.m.

The reservoir of unemployed labour inevitably has the effect of weakening the power of the workers to maintain their standard of life. Capitalism has no hesitation in taking advantage of that fact, and with every increase in the unemployment figures and the consequent impoverishment of those who are unemployed, whether they are in receipt of unemployment benefit or not, and with every reduction in the incomes of the working class, there is a decrease in purchasing power, which in itself again further depresses trade and industry and increases unemployment. Since 1920 wages have fallen £700,000,000 a year. That means £700,000,000 a year less purchasing power for that section of the population which, above all others, spends the bulk of its money, and must inevitably do so, on necessary things; and that either directly or indirectly concerns the staple industries of the country. Four-fifths of the income of the working class household is spent on necessary things. It is useless to expect that, unless there is some very material and substantial change in the world situation, our export trade will ever be what it was. There are districts in the particular part of the country from which I come, and other districts too, as for instance, Lancashire, which for a generation and more have been exporting machinery to different foreign lands that we used to supply with our textile goods. That machinery was not bought for ornament, but for use, and in India, China, and Japan machinery that was sent from this country is now in use. I have no com- plaint of that, hut it is a practical difficulty. Then we have to consider this perfectly evident fact, concerning countries where raw materials are produced in great profusion, Members of any party may say what they like about reciprocity, about trading with the Colonies, and so on, but the Australian population, for example, will not consent permanently to send over the ocean its raw wool, to be spun and woven and sent back again with all the profits on it. They are intending to make their own.

It is therefore the home market that is above all important for us in our present situation. That home market depends chiefly on the well-being of the working class population, on the workers having money to spend, on the workers being able to use the commodities that we can produce in such profusion. These factors are vital, and any measures that we can take to distribute the national income, we should take. We are sometimes told by our "intelligentsia" that in planning for the redistribution of income we are only carrying out a policy of charity, which is not Socialism. Socialism, they say, is nationalisation of the means of production and exchange. That is only a part. It is an essential part of Socialism that in the end—and it is bound to take time—there should be nationalised industries organised under national control and national ownership, to increase the amount produced, as it is possible under such a system vastly to increase the national product. But it is equally an important part of Socialism that the product already in existence and future increases in the product should be equally distributed among the population. This part of Socialism finds no real expression in the King's Speech.

Of course, it may be said that there is mention of taxation of land values, beginning with a Valuation Bill, a very important proposal; but a Valuation Bill will be fought very keenly, and, when passed, there will be the delay of assessing and all the rest of it before bringing it into operation. While it is all very well to find out the value of land and how much unearned increment is going into the pockets of landlords who have never created it, there is no uncertainty whatever about the forms of unearned increment not difinitely associated with land. The Government know full well that there are 98,000 per- sons in this country who pay Super-tax whose combined income amounts to £536,000,000 a year. The Government know full well that eight members of one family died within a comparatively short period of years possessing at the time of their death £19,000,000, and in another case six persons died possessing £28,000,000. The Government know perfectly well that in France there has been something in the nature of a capital levy, the nation having said to its debtors, both individual and national, "What is it you owe? Do you owe 10d.? Write down 2d. Do you owe £10,000,000? Write down £2,000,000." In this country, under the guidance of bankers, we have gone exactly in the opposite direction. Money was lent at the time when the sovereign was worth from 8s. 6d. to 15s. and, under the direction and advice of bankers and financiers, those pounds have been converted into the equivalent of gold sovereigns, and huge sums of unearned income have passed into the possession of these people. Now that we have decreed that gold shall be our measure, and that whatever the lenders of money possess in bank balances or elsewhere shall be converted into the equivalent of gold, France and America hoard up gold, which again increases the value to the rentier class.

The Government know all that, and yet in the King's Speech the only substantial indication of an intention to extend the spending power of the working class is the suggestion of land valuation leading to taxation of land. At the General Election proposals were made for the purpose of approaching the unemployment problem by increasing the spending power of the working class. We promised increased pensions to the aged workers. We promised work or maintenance of at least 20s. per man., 10s. for a dependant wife and 5s. for each dependant child. We promised the restoration of the Wheatley subsidy in order to give further support to house building. The effect of equalisation and re-distribution of income is well known to members of the Government. The economic effect of taxing the rich for the benefit of the poor is well known to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In 1922 and 1923 reductions of Income Tax were proposed, and in the Budget of 1925 a further reduc- tion was proposed. All those reductions were opposed officially by the Labour party on the Front Bench, and the theories that I have been endeavouring to advocate this afternoon of increasing the spending power of the working class, tapping the superabundant wealth of the rich in order to create more spending power for the poor, were well expressed in a speech, an extract from which I venture to read, by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 14th May, 1923. He said: A vast amount of employment we have to-day is of no special trade or commercial advantage whatever. It is parasitic on the community. It is a drain on the industry of the country, and where you have, as you have in this country, a large class of people with an enormous spending power, you thereby give encouragement to the development of pernicious employment which withdraws labour from useful work. Perhaps the strongest argument that can ho advanced, apart, of course, from the necessity of raising revenue to meet unavoidable expenditure, in favour of using taxation as an instrument of social reform, is that by it you can lessen the spending power of the rich and transfer it to those whose reasonable needs are unsatisfied, and it is only in that way that you can really encourage trade and industry, and thereby increase the volume of employment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th May, 1923; col. 85, Vol. 164.] That is our case. To put the matter by means of a homely simile, an increase of wealth in a country is like manure. If it is all heaped up in the wrong place, it is a pernicious nuisance, but, if it is spread and distributed, it is a fruitful source of new and better life. We did look for some definite attempt to indicate large measures of far-reaching effect to deal with the tremendous problem of unemployment. We did expect that that form of taxation which the Chancellor has shown could be used to increase employment by increasing spending power, would have been proposed and used to its fullest effect in the present situation. A sum of £135,000,000 a year has been given by three Budgets in the relief of taxation to the Income Tax and Super-tax payers, and on top of that there is de-rating. Surely it is time to get some of it back. It is not sufficient merely to say that you will prepare a valuation in order that, when the roll is prepared and all the necessary assessments are made, you can get something back from the land. Landlords are not the only parasites. Socialism is against them all, and it is time that the Government ceased to let this party engage its attention in merely ploughing the sands, and enabled the party to put its hand to really serious far-reaching changes in our present social and industrial system.


I beg to second the Amendment.

During the Debate on the Address, a large number of speeches have been devoted to unemployment, and on Monday and Tuesday we revert to that subject. This Amendment contains no specific reference to unemployment, but it embodies the policy which we claim can alone substantially contribute to the solution of that problem. In our view the problem of unemployment cannot be separated from the general problem of poverty. You may have your schemes of public works, you may seek to extend your export trade, but the causes of unemployment and poverty are the same. They lie in the capitalist system, and any effective treatment of unemployment must be by a policy which seeks to substitute the new system of Socialism for that of capitalism. That system of Socialism embodies both the principles which are expressed in this Amendment. The first is that it requires a. reorganisation of industry, finance and of trade so that public ownership and public control are embodied in it. The second and equally important principle is that the wealth in the community should be fairly distributed among the community. With that second principle I want to begin.

There can only be any substantial absorption of the unemployed if there is a raising of the purchasing power of the masses of the people. There are raw materials enough for industry; the industrial equipment is adequate; there is labour sufficient. The reason why the wheels are not turning and why goods are not being produced, is the fact that there is not purchasing power among the mass of the people to make a demand upon that labour, upon that industry and upon those raw materials. Unless Government policy succeeds in raising the purchasing power of our people, it may endeavour to secure unemployment policies in this direction and that, but it will make no substantial impression upon the number of the unemployed. At the present time, the effect of the policy of the Government is not to increase the purchasing power of our people, and its failure to pursue policies in that direction is enabling the employing class actually to reduce purchasing power, During the last few months there has been reduction in wages in the textile industry in Lancashire, in the woollen industry in Yorkshire, among the jute workers and among the building operatives, and now the miners and railwaymen are faced with a struggle against reductions of wages. Even the Government has imposed a reduction of wages upon the Civil Service.

Therefore, the whole tendency of economic policy to-day is by reductions of the purchasing power of the people actually to increase unemployment at greater rapidity than the policies of the Government are able to absorb the unemployed. We had a speech from the President of the Board of Trade the other day in which he stated that during the last 10 years national income of this country had remained stable at £4,000,000,000, but that during the same period 10,000,000 workers had suffered a reduction of £700,000,000. If that economic tendency is to continue the number of the unemployed is bound to increase, because the essential factor in absorbing the unemployed, an increase of massed purchasing power, will be missing. In addition to that general tendency, there is, as has been pointed out by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Bradford (Mr. Jowett), the aggravation of the process of rationalisation. I will put it in a sentence. Rationalisation means mass production. If you have massed production without massed consumption you are bound to have massed unemployment. Therefore, the additional fact of rationalisation makes it absolutely necessary that the House should follow a policy which is seeking to increase massed purchasing power, so that the power to consume may keep abreast of the power to produce. That, and a policy of shorter working hours, is the only method by which that aggravation of unemployment can be met.

We suggest in this Amendment that it should be the aim of the Government to lay down a minimum standard of civilised existence below which it should be impossible for our people to fall, and we think that our Government should take the initiative by seeing that the victims of our capitalist system, the unemployed, the aged left in penury, the widows and the sick, should have their undeserved destitution wiped out. The nation should recognise its duty to them by seeing that they have a decent standard of existence. In addition to that, it is the duty of the community, if it is to regard itself as civilised, to say, "The workers who are rendering a service to the community shall be guaranteed at least a living wage in return for their service." It is a principle of elementary decency that the man who is providing us with coal for our firesides and our industries, providing our clothes and providing our food, should be paid a living wage before we should be prepared to accept the things he is providing for us. No nation can regard itself as civilised unless it has laid down such a standard.

I would like to see this nation leading the nations of the world in applying that civilised standard. We have led the nations of the world in political democracy. Why cannot we lead them in a minimum standard of civilised existence? I admit that if we are to pursue such a policy we must meet the difficulty of foreign competition, and I endorse what was said from these benches by the hon. Member for Smethwick (Sir O. Mosley), that we must begin to treat these problems according to the needs of this time and not according to the philosophies of the pre-War period or the middle of the last century. We do not believe that either Tariffs or Free Trade are adequate to deal with the problem of foreign competition. If it be true that an increase of purchasing power is the essential thing, we say that tariffs, so far from securing that, are likely to decrease purchasing power. They have the effect of building a wall around this nation, and the employers of another country, in order to get their goods over the wall, reduce the wages of their workers, and in our own country our own employers retort by reducing wages here in order to meet that foreign competition. In addition to that, the increased prices which result have the effect of lowering purchasing power. But if Tariffs are no solution of the problem we take the view also that Free Trade is no solution. In our view, the only difference between Free Trade and Tariffs is that one represents a free fight and the other represents an organised fight. We do not desire a fight between nations at all. We desire the co-ordination of international trade through an international authority, so that world supplies are distributed according to world needs.

While that policy is being pursued we must be organising our foreign trade, and therefore we make the proposal of export boards and import boards, which shall have the power to protect the standard of civilised existence we set up, which shall have the power to buy in bulk, to watch an industry and to see that the standards we lay down as our minimum here are not interfered with by sweated and unfair competition from abroad. That is our answer both to Tariffs and Free Trade.

Lastly, we urge that if there is to be any solution of the problem of unemployment there must be a frontal attack upon our capitalist system. I want to repeat the question which was put yesterday by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). Have the Government decided to place Socialism upon the shelf for three years? Is it the policy of the Government to introduce such legislation that, with the promise also of electoral reform, they can count upon the support of the Liberal party? If that is to be the policy of the Government, though they may plan upon those lines events will disturb their strategy. That timid, that cautious, that ineffective policy will be utterly unable to deal with the increasingly grave economic situation which is developing in this country. My Friend the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) asked earlier to-day whether we expect the Government to introduce a programme of full-blooded Socialism. We ask the Government to do this—to introduce proposals which in a full-blooded way express Socialist principles. We ask them to have the sincerity and the courage to stand by such proposals.

We have to think not only of this House but of opinion in the country, and opinion in the country is quite clearly demanding bold policies, on one side as well as the other. The result of the Paddington election shows from the point of view of the Conservatives that electors are demanding a full-blooded Conservative policy, and, similarly, the supporters of the Labour party demand a full-blooded Socialist policy from our Gov- ernment. It would be infinitely better for our Government to introduce a full-blooded policy, equal to the needs of the situation, and then, if defeated by the Conservative and Liberal parties, go to the electorate and ask for a majority to carry out that policy, than to pursue a timid policy for three years. Our people will become disillusioned and disappointed, there will be an absence of hope, and the condition of apathy when the General Election takes place will render the position of the Government worse.

I would conclude by saying that it is not only the Labour party and the Labour Government which have to face this issue. It is the whole of our democratic and Parliamentary system. It is my view that if disappointment is intensified then, at the next General Election, thousands of the working-class electors will not vote for the Conservative party, because they have been disillusioned with regard to them: will not vote for the Liberal party, because they see no hope there; and, equally, will not vote for the Labour party. They will be in a state of apathy, and will say, "Politics, parties, Parliaments, are of no value." You may have that state of apathy for a time, but it will not remain. What has recently happened in Germany ought to be a warning to us that when that condition of apathy begins it is likely to turn in other directions, whether in the direction of Fascism on the one hand or Communism on the other hand. We say that if the Government are to be equal to the economic situation; if they are going to bring sincerity into politics and give a challenging lead to our people then they must express Socialist policies and principles in their programme and then I am sure that that challenging lead will be responded to in the country.


I listened with great pleasure to the speech of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). May I say, in regard to that speech, that there is nothing easier than to make a general attack on the capitalist system, but I do wish that. the hon. Member would explain a little more clearly what he means.


If the hon. Member will cross the road to 14, George Street, he will find a series of penny pamphlets which explain the whole thing.


None of those pamphlets really explains what you are aiming at. I would like the hon. Member for Bridgeton to sit down and write out what he is aiming at and then we should be able to get on. Let him bring in a Bill. I think 100 Bills mill be necessary. Let me remind the last speaker who spoke about the foreign capitalist that out of a world population of 2,000,000,000 there are countries with at least 1,000,000,000 where there are civil commotions, revolutions, and revolts, all due to people who are trying to overthrow the capitalist system. It is no use woolly gentlemen talking theoretical stuff of that kind and getting no further. What is the good of talking about the distribution of wealth and purchasing power and public ownership unless you explain exactly what is meant.


I am going to Norwich on Sunday.


I hope the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade will be on the same platform, because I am sure that he would be more inclined to agree with the hon. Member for Bridgeton than I am. Can any hon. Gentleman opposite mention any country which has adopted Socialist principles where the purchasing power of the people has been increased. It is only in those countries where the capitalist system has been well developed that a higher standard of life has obtained. Am I to understand that in the new Socialist State we are to have the old machinery? If so, let us have a chapter upon it in a book. The only concrete proposal which has been put forward is that of bulk purchase. That is a proposal which we can discuss. That is something tangible, and, as an old journalist, I desire to say that the most interesting part of this debate has been the rise of the new party. This is the day of new parties and the party I am alluding to will be called the bulk purchase party, or the B.P.P. At present, that party consists of the hon. Member for East Leicester (Mr. Wise), the hon. Baronet the Member for Smethwick (Sir O. Mosley) and the hon. Member for East Leyton (Mr. Brockway). I presume that their ministry will be in Hyde Park where they will store all the good and raw materials that they buy.

I do not dismiss this theory of import boards lightly. What the Government want are ideas, and, if hon. Gentlemen opposite will take the trouble to produce a number of ideas, perhaps the Government may get one idea that will be useful. A man who can produce an idea, even if it is a bad one, has made at least some contribution, and a man who produces a bad idea may sooner or later produce a good one. This is what happens in business, because very often one idea is adopted which makes a success of the business. A policy of that kind would be much better than these woolly and nebulous talks about the capitalist system. I have here the figures published by the Wheat Commission, of which the hon. Member for East Leicester was a distinguished member, and they afford a splendid example of the system of bulk purchase. They employ paid labour to the extent of 4 per cent. and all the rest is voluntary labour.


The hon. Member is quite wrong in his facts.


I understand that four per cent. was paid labour and that the rest was more or less voluntary. Another fact I would like the House to remember is that the purchases were made on a rising market, and it is not difficult to make a profit on a rising market. What happened? I have here the figures from the years 1916 to 1921. In 1916, the price was 13s. 7d. per cwt., in 1917, 17s. 8d., in 1918, 17s., in 1919 17s., and in 1920, 18s. 10d. Those figures show a steady rise. When the Wheat Commission wound up, they showed that they had made a profit on their transactions, including the purchase of all cereals, of £28,000,000; but they forgot to say that the bread subsidy, which was coupled with that profit, cost the country £162,000,000. That was left out of the picture altogether. The net loss to the country in respect of the Wheat Commission was £134,000,000. That is a very different story.


Does the hon. Member suggest that it is a loss to the country to keep the price of bread down in time of war?


No, but the point I am making is that, if you operate on a large scale, either the tax- payer must pay or the consumer must pay; you cannot have it both ways. If you are trying to help the producer, you cannot help the consumer or the taxpayer; and if you consider the interests of the consumer and the taxpayer, you do not consider the interests of the producer. Surely, buying in bulk during four years of steadily rising prices is very different from buying at a time when, as has recently been the case, prices have been falling in a chaotic way.

Just look at the difference. Even in September, the price of wheat fell by 17 per cent., and in the course of the year it fell by 44 per cent. Cotton in September fell by 12 per cent., and in the course of the year by 44, per cent., wool fell by 8 per cent. in September, and by 28 per cent. in the year; rubber fell by 23 per cent. in September, and 62 per cent. in the year; and so on. Will anyone suggest that buying on this vast scale, when the market is in the chaotic condition in which it has been in the last month or the last year, is the same thing as buying on a rising market such as existed during the War? There are other difficulties. There is the difficulty that buying on a large scale in itself sends up the price of all produce. One is told, on the authority of the Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, that when the late Lord Privy Seal arrived in Canada, on putting down his right foot the price of wheat went up by 30 cents., and on his putting down his left foot it went up by 25 cents., because they thought that he had a little import board in his pocket. The late Lord Privy Seal sent up the price of wheat on the Winnipeg market by 55 cents., and that is just one of the difficulties.


It is a good job he was not a centipede!


One Should not, however, dismiss this idea lightly. It is a concrete idea, and one would very much like to hear the hon. Member for East Leicester on some of the points that it raises. Ideas are explosive things. All reforms come about through people in garrets and university rooms thinking out things, until an idea explodes round the world and makes a great change. I agree with the hon. Baronet the Member for Smethwick that, owing to the present chaotic condition of the world and the recent fall in prices, Protection would be absolutely useless. How can either Free Trade or Protection or import boards be operated in the confused state of markets which we have seen lately? The real trouble in the world is that producers are producing their raw materials at almost pre-War prices, while manufacturers are offering them back in exchange, in the form of manufactured goods, at something like 50 to 100 per cent. above pre-War prices; and, until the world adjusts itself to that fact, and the one set of prices falls or the other rises, the economic disturbance must go on.

May I, in conclusion, say a word about the King's Speech? As far as I can see, the only people who will rejoice at it will be the Ethiopians, who have got a very honourable mention in the early part of the Speech. In the homes of the working classes, in the homes of the unemployed, there will be no rejoicing. What troubled one most was the complacency of the speakers from the Front. Government Bench. I listened to them all. If the Prime Minister's speech meant anything, it meant that, as long as the unemployed were carefully registered on a better system than that obtaining in America, all would be well. The Lord Privy Seal was almost worse. He left me in absolute despair. He explained in the first half of his speech how we had permanently lost our export trade in many big industries, and he imagined that we could find a stimulus by extending sales in the home market. All I can say is that, if our export trade has gone, there is no earthly justification for this country keeping a population of more than 30,000,000, and, instead of having 2,000,000 out of work, we shall have 10,000,000.

3.0 p.m.

The right hon. Gentleman then went on to say that the record of the Labour Government as regards relief works challenged comparison with that of any other Government.. It is not difficult to take up that challenge. He said that 150,000 men had been found work under various schemes that the Government. had introduced. As a matter of interest I was looking at the figures to see what happened under the Coalition Govern- ment, when a similar slump came at the end of 1920 and the beginning of 1921; and I found that in the last week of January, 1922, there were 125,000 men employed on relief works the principles of which were initiated by the Leader of my party. I think it is a fair claim to make that a man who initiates schemes of relief of unemployment on an experimental scale when unemployment on a large scale is a new feature of industrial life, as it was in 1921, has made a bigger contribution than a Government which, after eight years of experience by Government Departments, leading economists and so on, and after 16 months of office, can only find work for 150,000 men. After all, every one of their ideas is borrowed from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). I think I am right, in saying that there is no single idea that has been undertaken over the last eight or nine years, whether it be Trade Facilities, Export Credits, home development, or the St. Davids Committee, that was not initiated by my right hon. Friend and his Government in 1920–21. I do not think, therefore, that the Lord Privy Seal is right in claiming that the Labour record is as wonderful as he claims it, to be.

The Government cannot say that they have not had good will. I am full of good will; we are all prepared to help them in every possible way. They had a very good chance even from hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway on this side; I do not think they have ever hindered the Government on any definite unemployment scheme. The big triumvirate that started to cure, or to mitigate, unemployment—where are they now? The late Lord Privy Seal is in the safe haven of the Dominions Office. The hon. Baronet the Member for Smethwick has gone, not in triumph, but in disgust because he cannot get things done. One man alone is left—the First Commissioner of Works; and his contribution has been mixed bathing in the Serpentine. While people have been bathing in the Serpentine, the unemployment figures have gone up to over 2,000,000.

Hon. Gentlemen will say, "What is your idea?" I am entitled to reply, in the words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that it is not the duty of the Members of His Majesty's Opposition to suggest ideas to the Government; but I will say this, that my idea is not the idea of the King's Speech. The hon. Member for Bridgeton regretted that there was no Socialism in the King's Speech, and he called it Liberalism. The King's Speech is not my idea, because, whatever Liberalism does or does not do, it does move with the times and adjust itself to the needs of the day. We do not utter platitudes, but we present our solutions in the greatest detail so that the whole country can understand them, and, if the hon. Member will buy the book next Wednesday, he will see "We can conquer unemployment" brought right up to date. In my judgment, instead of spending £100,000,000 in keeping men hanging about in idleness round the Exchanges, I would rather spend that amount, or more, in finding them work of useful development. I believe there is a very wide field of national development into which nationally controlled investments can be conducted. I do not mean nationally controlled. The hon. Member knows what I mean. I do not mean under public ownership. I mean investments directed into more profitable channels through the agency of some central association, and along those lines I think very much can be done. That is the opinion of all the leading economists of the country. One can only say that very little can be done along the lines of the King's Speech. I agree with the peroration of the last speaker. If the Government had come forward even with a full blooded Socialist policy, there is not one of us, in fighting against it, who would not render them a tribute of admiration and, if they fell, they would fall fighting like men. If they fall now—and they may do—they will fall without even the respect of their friends and will pass away unwept, unhonoured and unsung.


My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) a few days ago threatened, in a jocular manner, to publish some of my left wing speeches. I plead guilty to my youthful indiscretions and I am not ashamed of them. It is true that at one time I was a vigorous left winger, but the left winger of my time has at least a virtue that the left winger of to-day does not possess. The feathers of the left winger in my time did at least flock together. The difference between my time left winger and the present day left winger is that everyone of the present day left winger's feathers wants to flutter en its own. That is my difficulty. I have not departed one iota from the principles of my early days of the Labour movement. The sooner Socialism comes, the better I shall be pleased, because I believe the present system is getting so top heavy that sooner or later, by the sheer force of circumstances, Socialism will establish itself, whether it is to-day or to-morrow.

The mover of the Amendment complains of the King's Speech and says the items in it are of such a character that they could not possibly be carried in this House. If they cannot be carried, how can my hon. Friend expect that Socialism in our time will be carried in this House? An hon. Member opposite says he would he glad to see a full-blooded Socialist scheme brought in and in the next few words, following his illustrious leader, he threatened to put us on the dissecting table. I do not believe this Amendment is going to help the situation a bit. If I did, I should have no hesitation in voting for it. On the one hand, we have the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and on the other we have the official Opposition. One day the right hon. Gentleman will be falling on our necks professing the greatest friendship possible, the next day we find him going in the opposite direction. He is a master of the art of political coquetry. Sometimes he impresses me with the application of the old couplet: How happy I could he with either, Were t'other dear charmer away. At the very moment when we intend to introduce anything of the character proposed in this Amendment, we have both sections of the Opposition against us. I appeal to my hon. Friend. How is it possible in the circumstances, just new at least, to entertain an Amendment of this character? I regret to find myself even in temporary opposition to him. Socialism is all right. It is the Socialists who are wrong.

Miss LEE

I listened carefully to the speech of the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. Shakespeare) to see whether I could discover those ideas that he was so anxious to have brought before the House which were going to deal substantially with our problem of unemployment. I found that, like all good Liberals, he was full of good will and that he agreed with speeches made on all sides of the House but that he disapproved of the King's Speech, he disapproved of the idea of bulk purchase, and he disapproved of tariffs. That was a good clearing of the deck and left plenty of room for the things with which he did agree and which could be applied to the situation. But when I come to the positive side of his remarks, I find, first, that £100,000,000 is to be spent on development loans. I am willing, when I am given an opportunity, to vote for a policy such as that. For instance, I am keen in my desire to get a substantial share of any such schemes in Scotland. We can spend it all upon ourselves; on a big mid-Scotland canal or upon a road across the Forth Bridge and other projects. I am willing to support any such policy, and I very much wish that the Government would give us an opportunity of supporting such a policy. But I can assure the hon. Member for Norwich that that is merely a tiny drop and will deal with a few thousand unemployed men only. Although £100,000,000 may be spent upon such schemes, rationalisation is developing, and new machinery is deplacing men, so that the unemployment problem remains substantially as big as it was before. I noticed that even the hon. Member for Norwich was slightly uncomfortable about the solution he put before the House and that something more ought to be added. He went on to produce another idea, which, again, I should immediately welcome. He said that he felt that we should have to control the investment of capital. I very much hope that the hon. Member for Norwich will crystallise that idea.


I said "direct investments." I made a slip, and I altered it.

Miss LEE

I do not. want to give a false impression. The hon. Member corrected himself and said "direct investments." I want to point out the implications of such a proposal; he would ultimately be giving us the advantage of his great ability in making that tangible contribution to Socialist ideas. I am sure that the hon. Member for Norwich, if he desired immediately to deal with unemployment and wanted to see whether we could not use our in- vestment surpluses in a way more beneficial to the country as a whole he would find himself led on inevitably to interfering with, or intervening—that is the word, which, perhaps, the Liberal party finds more acceptable—more and more in the control of finance. I think he would discover that it would not be nationally controlled investment, that, you are only playing with the idea, and that you are being dishonest in thinking that you are going to do anything along those lines until you get to the inner citadel of Socialism and thus control the finances of this country.

May I call the attention of the House to a most interesting supplement given by Sir Henry Strakosch, whose authority will be acceptable on all sides, to the "Economist" a few months ago. In that supplement he analyses the percentage of the national income which was held by what are called the rentier classes of our community or, if you like, people who are in possession of fixed interest bearing securities. The percentage held by those people in 1924 he gives as 26.4 per cent., roughly a quarter of our national income. Then he analyses the changes in gold values. The result is that Sir Henry Strakosch claims that this section of our community holding fixed interest bearing stock, national loans and such kinds of stock, are now getting, not a quarter, but a third of our national income—34 per cent. Here is something which every Member of the House must seriously answer when we are blamed for saying that we want a bigger share of our national income to go into working-class houses, and that is that during the very same year when wages have been cut and when a smaller proportion of national income has been going into working-class homes, and when that smaller proportion has resulted in a decreasing of our home markets and in the aggravation of unemployment, another section of the community, a section that is neither worker nor employer, a section that is not taking any of the risks of industry but which is playing safety first, a section which says: "Our demands must be satisfied first. We are going to do nothing: we are not going to contribute skill or labour but we must have our tribute from the community as the first call upon everything that is produced," that is a section whose tribute from the com- munity has increased from one-fourth to one-third of our national income. Will the hon. Member for Norwich accept that as, at least, one indication of the need for controlling the finance in this country in the interests of the whole country and as one concrete point which illustrates that it is not an impossible argument to expect more to be spent on pensions for the aged and on social services for the children, seeing that we are spending more or allowing more to go to one section of the community who take more than they formerly did, and who are giving nothing.

The Liberals talk about the need for people getting high dividends because they are taking risks. I was astounded when the hon. Member for Norwich talked about the Liberal party adjusting itself to the needs of the changing times, because, if I may respectfully suggest it, one of the chief reasons for the decline of the Liberal party and one of the chief reasons which makes it safe to prophesy the continued decline of the Liberal party is that it is not adjusting itself to the changing times. We find that in their policy of laissez faire and even in the policy of Free Trade. Their idea is that the men who take the greatest risks and may make immense fortunes one year and lose it another year require the stimulus of these high profits, and that in doing the best for themselves they are also doing the best for the community and raising up the general level. I put it to my hon. Friend and his party that times have changed and that those ideas are completely exploded because we are dealing to-day with big trusts and cartels. Either these vast groupings of private individuals, over which this House has no control, must be allowed to play about as they like with our monetary problems or with our trade, or we have to face up to the alternative of the State controlling these things. That is the conception which is at the back of the scheme which the hon. Member for Leicester has so ably brought before the public attention for the establishment of import boards and for bulk purchases.

If there is to be a monopoly group in the community, let the monopoly group be the biggest power of all, and let it be the State. Let it use the power that it possesses not in order that any small fraction may profit at the expense of the rest, but let the State be the watchdog of the economic interests of the whole community and use its position in a world of falling prices. There is no argument that it is easier to make profits in the highest than in the lowest market, and I think the hon. Member for Norwich was unjust to himself and to the House on that account. In a falling market it is all the more essential that the State should intervene and minimise the effects of collapse and chaos. We should make use of the fact that this country is about the best market in the whole world; that the internal market of this country is most desirable from the point of view of any exporting country, especially a country exporting industrial goods and agricultural produce. We are not taking advantage of our position. If we were organising the demand we should make a good bargain with the Colonies and with Russia, with any part of the world, and say "we will buy from you." We should make big deals for a reasonable period of time. We should say "we want your goods at the cheapest possible price," and then, instead of being afraid of dumping, we should gladly welcome big deals in wool or meat or any of the major commodities which would allow us to buy all that we require in order to supplement home production.

None of us on these benches is so foolish as to want to see agriculture or any of our industries completely crushed out, but we want to insure that we are not going to protect an industry at home, which perhaps supplies one-fifth or one-quarter of the home market., by a tariff device which is simply going to make the consumers at home pay more for what is imported from abroad and for what is produced at home. We want to give the home producer a feeling of security in which he can organise and develop, a guaranteed price, a guaranteed market free from profiteering, and then the State can step in and supplement what the home producer brings to the home market by additional supplies bought at the cheapest possible rate. We are moving this Amendment not because we do not recognise that some of the Measures suggested in the King's Speech are very good. I am particularly glad to see that the raising of the school age is not going to be shelved, but is to be brought before the House at a very early date. We are still a little doubtful about maintenance allowances, but if that difficulty can be overcome there should, I think, be a ready welcome to the Bill from everyone in this House who cares for an enlightened and cultured democracy fit to rule this country.


The Amendment now before the House does not deal with the question of raising the school age. Speeches must be confined to the subject of the Amendment.

Miss LEE

I must content myself then with that passing reference. The Amendment is not moved because we do not realise that the individual Measures mentioned in the King's Speech are admirable, but because we think that they are totally unequal to the situation. If we sum up the entire contents of the King's Speech it is still entirely inadequate. I believe, indeed, that it can he judged not only by those who radically disagree with the tactics of His Majesty's Government, but that a case can be made out for it by those who believe that it is the best possible policy to stay in office as long as the Government can do so and do all that is possible within those terms. I do not believe that even on those lines the maximum is being done.

I have already referred to import boards. I am very much disappointed that import boards are not being pushed more from our Front Bench. At the Imperial Conference I would have liked the Government to have used a magnificent opportunity for putting forward this which, after all, is the Labour party's policy, in such a way that it would be known and understood by this country and by the whole world. There is another matter which, I believe, would be a more definite individual contribution to the solution of unemployment than anything outlined in the King's Speech. In answer to a question yesterday or the day before we were told that the Government are now guaranteeing less than £3,000,000 of credits for export trade to Russia. I beg the Government to keep in mind that in Lanarkshire, my constituency, in any industrial area, especially where there is a great deal of iron and steel, thousands and thousands of men could be put into employment if only the Government adopted a more courageous policy regarding export credits, if only they would go as far even as Germany is going in that direction.

I visited Russia during the summer and I found Russian workers amazed that we curtailed our export credits to 18 months. Germany gives them two years and even up to four or five years. Individaul capitalists in America give up to five years guarantee. But this country, which could benefit most by having big orders from Russia, finds it is impossible for these orders to be placed because of the limitations around export credits. I believe that we could get from £10,000,000 to £15,000,000 of orders from Russia without a great deal of difficulty if only we were making full use of the powers that we have already. I understand that the Government have £23,000,000 which can be used to finance export credits schemes, and that only about £6,000,000 of that amount is being used at present. It would require a very strong case indeed to convince us that the rest of that money should not be used, that the period of credits should not be extended to make its use possible, when we see that in this way a definite and concrete contribution might be made for the reduction of unemployment.

But when I deal with individual matters in which I am interested, I am not touching the real centre of the criticism from this Bench. We believe that by a more vigorous and a more courageous policy, even within its own brief our Government might do a little more. But with all the courage and all the vigour and all the enterprise in the world we do not believe that in the composition of the present House of Commons we can radically hasten the solution of unemployment. Those of us who were critical in the past must be very careful that in our criticism we do not convey to the out-side public the idea that we could solve unemployment inside the present House of Commons. I do not see why a party like ours, which has grown up by propagating the idea that the present system could not give a proper standard of life to our people, should at this moment turn round in panic when it finds its own forecast being justified. We have said all along that the breaking point would come and that as time went on and cartels and trusts developed, and machines displaced labour, the position of the working masses would become worse rather than better. But what we expect at this moment, when our own philosophy and our own economics are being justified by the event, is that our Government should still stand by our own analysis and our own philosophy, and should not give the idea that any compromise scheme to deal with the situation could be worked out.

I hope there will not be the idea that we on these back benches can clutch the hands of the people on the other side who have rather nice dispositions and who are earnestly wanting to help—that we can make a sort of political cocktail containing elements from all sides of the House, and apply it to our national needs, and thereby improve the situation to any extent. I do not think we can do so. I think that every time we must come back to the question of the control of our national finances. We must come hack to the need for reorganising our industries on Socialist lines. I stress that point, but what I stress still more is the immediate need for increasing the purchasing power of our people by pensions, by better social services, by protecting wages.

This is my final remark. Rather than continue on a compromise policy which is doing nothing, which all the whole is accompanied by outside events drifting more and more to disaster, we should support this Amendment. We want a challenging line of action. We want at least an attempt made to protect and improve the position of the working masses in this country. We want it for their sakes. We want it because we believe it would be the biggest single contribution to the solution of the unemployment problem. It would be far better for us to be defeated in this House of Commons, even if that defeat meant that for a temporary period we were out of office, provided that we clearly carried on our distinctive Socialist education, and built up, for the time that is coming, that knowledge and support which will be necessary to put through the radical Socialist reorganisation which is the only means, the means which ultimately must be resorted to, in order to bring prosperity to our country and rid our people of poverty and unemployment.


Everyone in the House, I am sure, has admired the courage of the hon. Lady the Member for Northern Lanark (Miss Lee) and the way in which she has put forward the full-blooded Socialist programme, though many of us do not agree with the picture painted by her of the results which would follow from Socialism, and some of us would point out that her knowledge of business is not very profound. She has told us that a falling market is of no interest whatever to holders of stock, and that it would be of great advantage to the State, even in a falling market, to be dealing in stocks or whatever the commodity might be. May I point out to her, that holders of stocks in a falling market must on every occasion make a loss, and the difference between Socialism and private enterprise is that, whereas under State enterpise, the loss would be incurred by the taxpayer, under private enterprise, the loss is incurred by the private individual.

Like the hon. Lady I have been tempted to intervene in this debate by the speech of the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. Shakespeare). He has told us that the policy of import boards, though he is not in favour of it, is worthy of consideration. May I remind him that a necessary accompaniment of import boards is that there shall be no longer any free import of the goods with which the boards are dealing. Import boards inevitably mean the end of free imports, and I am surprised that one whom I have always regarded as a worshipper at the shrine of Richard Cobden should even give consideration to a policy which means the end of the free import system. When we examine in close detail the whole idea of the import purchasing board we find innumerable difficulties in the way. First of all, we find that the State must be the one buyer and then that it must be the one seller. It follows that the State can fix its own price at which it shall sell. If, after the State has made a purchase, the price falls, it follows that the State must either make a loss or that your food must cost you more than it ought to do. If you have a position in which the State fixes its own price, any fool in the world could make a profit under circumstances like that. Even the Post Office, inefficiently managed as it is, being able to fix its own prices, can make a profit under such circumstances.

I ask the House seriously to consider what kind of a muddle there would exist in this House and on every political platform in the country if, under such circumstances as have been outlined in this Amendment to-day, we had questions put as to what the price of bread should be or ought to be or would be. Would it not be perfectly obvious that questions would be raised in Parliament to the Minister responsible as to why the price of bread had been reduced or increased?

When we examine the past history of this question, and its trial in the case of the Ministry of Food during the War, when Mr. G. H. Roberts was Minister of Food, we find that the Government controlled bacon in this country, and huge purchases were made, which were brought into Liverpool. The Ministry of Food made a stipulation that none of the new bacon was to be sold until the old bacon had been distributed to their customers, and so much of it was bought that there were not sufficient warehouses in Liverpool and the other great ports to accommodate it. Most of the new stuff was put into warehouses where there was no cold storage, and the result was that before the old bacon had been distributed, the new bacon was rancid and utterly unfit for human food, and literally thousands of boxes of that bacon were taken, under State control, and dropped to the bottom of the River Mersey, because it was then unfit for human consumption. Also, if I may outline something further that happened, a great deal of it was sold at very much below cost price for making soap and other materials of that kind.

I heard the hon. Member for Smethwick (Sir O. Mosley) speaking in this House the other day, and he seemed to-visualise the idea that either some kind of public corporate company or the State should make all the purchases required for this country. Imagine what kind of superman would be necessary who would, in the case of wheat, say, have to calculate what was required, to almost the exact bushel, by this country, and to calculate what the harvest would be while that harvest was still growing. I believe there are more people in this country and in other countries walking barefoot through trying to calculate the harvests of the world than from any other cause in business life. They are bound, however capable they are, to make mistakes, and if those mistakes are made which every business man makes sometimes in his business career, they will be made to the loss of the State instead of, as now, to the loss of the private individual.

If, for those reasons, I am opposed to import boards, I am as strongly opposed to the principle of a quota, which has been put forward, I believe, by hon. Members on both sides of the House. I say that this policy, though it may have some attractions as far as home-grown wheat is concerned, is utterly impossible in regard to Dominion wheat. The principle, as I understand it, would be to increase the use of Dominion wheat, and to decrease the use of foreign wheat. Leaving Russian, German and French wheat out of the question, I would ask the House to think of it in the terms of Argentine and Canadian wheat, which are the two big countries concerned. What would he the result of the quota system in actual practice? It would mean that, as far as Argentine wheat is concerned, there would be a less demand, and that as far as Canadian wheat is concerned, there would be more demand. The effect would be that Argentine wheat would fall in price, and Canadian wheat would naturally rise in price, and I can imagine the hon. Member for Norwich rising in his place with the familiar Cobdenite argument, and pointing out that the price of Argentine wheat was lower than the price of Canadian wheat, and that our food was really in such circumstances costing more.

I believe that all these fantastic ideas of dealing with the food supplies of this country either by quota or import board are all doomed to failure. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about tariffs?"] I do not know whether it would be in order to put forward an alternative which would raise revenue and would not interfere with the supply more, at any rate, than the amount of the duty. believe that the ideas which have been put forward would be of no advantage to this country, but would be a serious disadvantage in the form of hordes of officials. They would not have the practical experience that we have in our food supplies at the present moment, and it would result in considerable loss to the people of our country.


Perhaps it may be opportune if I say a word or two with regard to the Amendment before the House. should like to say at the beginning, that although I believe the Amendment would carry very little support if taken to a Division, yet I do not think any Member of the House can offer any reasonable complaint of the manner in which it was introduced, or the way in which it was supported by those who are in agreement with it. In fact, all their observations were confined to an examination of the problem as we see it to-day. When they speak of the need of something being done to deal with the awful results of the system under which we are living at the moment, then few of us on this side can find anything with which to disagree. In fact, it is true to say that the party on this side of the House has been able to build itself up to the position it occupies at the present moment very largely by advocacy on similar lines and in similar terms to those which have been given by the mover and seconder of the Amendment.

At the same time, the problem arises as to what is exactly the purpose for which this Amendment has been moved. As I say, it may get little support in the Lobby. The only support it has, apparently, received in the discussion has come from the hon. Gentleman who shares with me the representation of the City of Norwich. He seemed to have some sympathy with the Amendment, judging by his last remarks. I rather think that he was speaking very much with his tongue in his cheek when he made that observation, because if there is one Member who sits on those benches who is an out and out admirer and a blind follower of his leader, it is he. One is reminded of the fact that very early in the life of this Parliament, almost within a week after the General Election, his leader declared in the most emphatic terms that, as soon as we became a Socialist administration and in any way attempted to put into operation our Socialist beliefs, we would cease to be a Government; and the hon. Gentleman would have been one of the most ready to follow his leader into the Lobby should a situation of that kind have arisen. Therefore, when he makes a de- claration that he had sympathy with an Amendment in favour of a more full-blooded policy, I suggest that he must have been speaking very much with his tongue in his cheek.

The point arises, what is the purpose of this Amendment? Do my hon. Friends who put it forward submit it with the idea that it is furthering the policy of dealing with the problem of poverty? Is that the purpose they have in mind, because they are contradictory in the position they take up. The hon. Lady the Member for North Lanark (Miss Lee) explicitly stated that she, did not believe that these things could be accomplished in this House. She did not believe that proposals which were largely within the meaning of this Amendment could be carried in this House.

Miss LEE

I do believe that a portion of them could be carried, and that at least the attempt ought to be made.


That resolves itself entirely into a matter of opinion and judgment as to what is the right course to pursue, but it is hardly logical or consistent to get up here and make a statement that it is impossible to do certain things in this House, constituted as it is, and then blame the Government for not attempting to do it. [Interruption.] I submit that that is a fair interpretation of what was contained in the statement to which I have referred. The hon. Gentleman the Member for East Leyton (Mr. Brockway), as far as I could gather the meaning and purpose be had in seconding the Amendment, demonstrated the fact that, if any attempt were made to produce legislation on the lines of which he is in favour, the net result would be that we should have an election; and the only part of the House from which any approval of that came was the benches opposite. Therefore,, I fail to see what purpose is being achieved in regard to alleviating the problem of poverty, to furthering the interests of the unemployed, to furthering social legislation or to any one of the proposals that might be put forward; and in what way by the moving or carrying of this Amendment would we in any way further these proposals in the slightest degree.

It is obvious that in the minds of those who have submitted the Amendment they know clearly and unmistakably that, if such attempt were made, the result must mean the defeat of the Government, a General Election, and possibly a change of Government, which, I am sure, would not be of the character that would further the proposals for which they stand. Therefore, it is difficult to understand the position which they are taking up in this matter. Before that can happen we must have a larger number of the voters of the country behind us. I have spent, I suppose, as many years in the Socialist movement as most of my hon. Friends. It is 38 years since I joined the movement, and I have never regretted my association with it, nor have I gone back in a single degree on my belief that ultimately Socialism must be adopted if we are to remove this problem of poverty as we see it and understand it; but if we are to do so, we must have a larger proportion of Members holding our convictions sitting on these benches than we have at the present time.

My hon. Friends who are responsible for this Amendment and take up this attitude towards the Government would be rendering a greater service to the cause in which they believe were they to go and tell the electors not that the Government are failing in their policy, not that the Government are a failure, but point out the limitations under which the Government are suffering and labouring, and ask the country to give us better support when the time comes. That would be a better and sounder policy to pursue.

After all, we have been able to accomplish something. We have dealt with phases of the problem. In the legislation which was passed last Session there were one or two manifestations of a desire and determination to act in that direction. We have undertaken some reorganisation of industry, moderate as it may be and inadequate to meet the realities of the situation. The legislation in regard to the coal industry was an attempt to reorganise that industry and to bring in the principle of public and organised control. And so it is the intention of the Government to take up those items in their programme and in their policy which they believe they can carry in this House. That is the intention foreshadowed in the King's Speech this year. That may fall short of what some of us had hoped for years ago, it may fall short of what we would like to see being done at the present time, but I submit with every confidence that it does represent all that is reasonably possible within this Chamber, constituted as it is. Before we can hope to get those wider and more drastic reforms at which my hon. Friends are aiming we must get more support from the country and a larger representation in the House. I hope my hon. Friends will now be content to let us go to a Division on this Amendment.


rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.


I do not propose to delay the House very long. I merely want to state the reasons that have brought me to my feet. The Parliamentary Secretary of the Board of Trade has spoken of the attempts that are being made and what might happen if we were to attempt to make bolder demands. The point I want to make clear is this—that if we go to the country on legislation such as is adumbrated in the Speech from the Throne there will be much less hope of getting the majority which we are all anxious to obtain. My complaint against the Speech is, as the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) said yesterday, that. it is a generation too late. There is in the Speech a reference to the present Dominions Conference. In the speech from the Throne in 1906, in the days of a Liberal Government, there was also a reference to a Colonial Conference. In the present Speech there is a reference to the need for consideration of the distress in the rural areas. In the Speech in 1906 there was also a reference to the need for securing an improvement in rural conditions. In the present Speech there is a reference to education and a Bill is promised. In 1906 a Bill dealing with education was also promised. In the present Address there is also a Bill to deal with trade disputes and singularly enough in the Speech from the Throne in 1906 there was also a Bill to deal with trade disputes. In 1906 there was a proposal to deal with electoral reform drawn from the Government because of the demands of the rising new party, the Labour party. In this Speech there is the promise of a Bill to deal with electoral reform drawn from the Government by the old, decadent Liberal party. The result of the last election shows that there is a multiplicity of parties, and everywhere there is a demand for some definite programme that will bring relief to the community. The United Empire party, the Empire Free Trade party, the Conservative party, the Liberal party and the Labour party have each got their own programme.

There is no item in the King's Speech which, in my opinion, will effect any reduction in the number of people who are becoming unemployed. The outstanding facts can be summarised in a few words. The last Conservative Government failed to deal with the unemployment problem effectively, and so did the Coalition Government. The present Government is proceeding on the same lines, and it is bound to fail in the same way because we are adopting precisely the same methods. The Lord Privy Seal declared the other day that he hoped we should hear no more of the short-term policy and that road making and bridge building have done no good whatever in the direction of relieving unemployment. In my view the long-term policy will have the same effect, because that policy is built upon the principle of the rationalisation of industry and is bound to increase unemployment.

It is claimed that by rationalising industry we shall get some extension of trade, but in my view that policy will also fail. The result is that we come back to this proposition which I hope those on the Treasury Bench will note. Firstly that all sweated goods, whether made in this country or abroad, are goods that no Socialist should actually purchase, because it is immoral, from a Socialist point of view, to purchase sweated goods made in this country or imported from abroad. There is nothing in the King's Speech which makes the slightest effort to deal with this problem. The second principle, which is a corollary to the first, is the Socialist principle that, wherever a man or a woman is doing the work of the world or the work of the country, that man or woman should have a living wage. There is nothing in the King's Speech that deals in the slightest way with that. There is a third principle, and that is the Socialist principle that it is the divorcement of the people from the sources of wealth that is the primary cause of unemployment and poverty. The King's Speech in no way touches that. These are the fundamental problems that are creating burdens for a, multitude of parties; these are the problems that to-day are discussed by men and women everywhere; and of these problems the King's Speech gives not the slightest hope of solution. It is because of that that I, very much against my own feelings, shall go into the Lobby against the Government.

I would finish by saying this: We have come here, after all, not merely to succumb more or less to the pleasant atmosphere of this House. We have come to this place, sent here by men and women who are in poverty and who have worked to get us here, who have sacrificed a great deal to get us here; and there are many here who have sacrificed positions in order that they might come here to do something for their own folk at home. We have not come here to

say pleasant things, or to open our mouths and shut our eyes and see what someone will send us. We have come here in the sincere belief that we are here to do big things, or, if we cannot do them, at any rate to fail in the attempt to do them. It is better that we should do that than that we should perish miserably, as we shall sooner or later on emasculated policies like this. I beg our Front Bench, I beg my colleagues—than whom I do not claim to be the slightest whit better either in courage or in the desire to do things—I beg of you that you will not allow this present condition of things to continue as it is. In the words of Thomas Paine in his "American Crisis." These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will in these days give way. But we who value liberty will go forward whatever he the cost.

Question put, "That those words be there added."

The House divided: Ayes, 11; Noes, 156.

Division No. 1.] AYES. [3.58 p.m.
Batey, Joseph McShane, John James Wise, E. F.
Brockway, A. Fenner Maxton, James
Horrabin, J. F. Naylor, T. E. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W. Scrymgeour, E. Mr. W. J. Brown and Mr. Kinley.
Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern) Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West) Dickson, T. Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher Duncan, Charles Lathan, G.
Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigie M. Ede, James Chuter Lawson, John lames
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro') Edmunds, J. E. Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)
Ammon, Charles George Edwards, E. (Morpeth) Leach, W.
Angell, Norman Foot, Isaac Lee, Frank (Derby, N.E.)
Arnott, John Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Longbottom, A. W.
Attlee, Clement Richard Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton) Longden, F.
Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston) George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Lovat-Fraser, J. A.
Barnes, Alfred John George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea) Lunn, William
Barr, James. Gibson, H. M. (Lance, Mossley) Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)
Bellamy, Albert Glassey, A. E. MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)
Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood Gossling, A. G. MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)
Bennett, William (Battersea, South) Granville, E. McElwee, A.
Benson, G. Gray, Milner McEntee, V. L.
Bentham, Dr. Ethel Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.) Mansfield, W.
Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Markham, S. F.
Broad, Francis Alfred Hall, Capt. W. G. (Portsmouth, C.) Marley, J.
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield) Hardie, George D. Marshall, Fred
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon Messer, Fred
Burgess, F. G. Hastings, Dr. Somerville Middleton, G.
Burgin, Dr. E. L. Hayes, John Henry Millar, J. D.
Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Elland) Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley) Montague, Frederick
Cameron, A. G. Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield) Morgan, Dr. H. B.
Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S.W.) Herriotts, J. Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)
Chater, Daniel Hoffman, P. C. Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)
Church, Major A. G. Hopkin, Daniel Muggeridge, H. T.
Cluse, W. S. Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield) Murnin, Hugh
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Isaacs, George Noel Baker, P. J.
Cocks, Frederick Seymour. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Noel-Buxton, Baroness (Norfolk, N.)
Dagger, George Jowitt, Sir W. A. (Preston) Oldfield, J. R.
Dalton, Hugh Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford) Palin, John Henry
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Kennedy. Thomas Paling, Wilfrid
Denman, Hon. R. D. Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M. Palmer, E. T.
Perry, S. F. Sexton, James Tillett, Ben
Pethick-Lawrence, F. W. Shakespeare, Geoffrey H. Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles
Phillips, Dr. Marion Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston) Viant, S. P.
Picton-Turbervill, Edith Shield, George William Walkden, A. G.
Pole, Major D. G. Shillaker, J. F. Wallace, H. W.
Potts, John S Short, Alfred (Wednesbury) Watkins, F. C.
Price, M. P. Simmons, C. J. Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)
Ramsay, T. B. Wilson Bitch, Charles H. Whiteley, William (Blaydon)
Rathbone, Eleanor Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe) Wilkinson, Ellen C.
Raynes, W. R. Smith, Frank (Nuneaton) Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Richards, R. Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley) Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Smith, W. R. (Norwich) Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)
Alley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees) Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip Wright, W. (Rutherglen)
Romeril, H. G. Sorensen, R. Young, R. S. (Islington, North)
Rosbotham, D. S. T. Stamford, Thomas W.
Rowson, Guy Strauss, G. R. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Sanders, W. S. Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby) Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr.
Sawyer, G. F. Thurtle, Ernest Charles Edwards.

Main Question again proposed.

It being after Four of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed upon Monday next.

Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3.

Adjourned at Nine Minutes after Four o'Clock till Monday next, pursuant to the Resolution of the House of this day.